I love lists. I make them for everything. And I'm not just talking about groceries, things to do this week or places to see before I die; but more important lists that help me learn about myself, my business and my life.
A few years ago when I began writing books, giving speeches and publishing articles, I became obsessed with lists; mainly because they're easier for other people to follow, and easier for me to write. But the science behind lists is a fascinating thing.
It all started with my friend Ed. He once told me to make a list called "101 Goals for 2005." That's a lot, I thought. It certainly puts those New Years Resolutions to shame! But coming up with 101 of anything is a lot. And over a period of two weeks, I finished my list. And as per Ed's suggestion, I made the first item on my list "Write a list of 101 goals." When I was done, I crossed it off!
Then over the next few months, I looked at my list frequently. It kept my goals, dreams and desires in front of me; both business and personal. And I crossed new items off every week, accomplishing more than ever before!
Lists allow us to easily put information which belongs together in one place. They don't prioritize, segment, or bias any one item; but rather allow us to simply get it all down on paper -- and sometimes that's the most important part of learning. In my case, I learned what goals I wanted to accomplish in 2005 -- some of which I NEVER would have thought of otherwise. So, the beauty of lists is two sided: making the list, and using the list.
First of all, lists help you examine your ideas, thoughts and problems visually, often resulting in patterns. This works better than thinking or talking because humans remember that which appeals to their vision three times as well as any other sense. So, creating lists will widen the areas of your memory circuit and allow your information to become clearer.
Here's a great example: try making a list of "10 Problems My Customers Complain About." This exercise will identify several key difficulties for which your business has solutions. Not to mention, this is great information to memorize for future conversation with those customers.
If you read any resource, book or website on creativity, all of them will tell you the same thing: lists stimulate and challenge your creativity. Sure, it's easy to pin down one answer to a problem or question. But what about 5? 7? 10? Forcing yourself to adhere to a set number of required items will generate greater depth and breadth of your ideas. Especially when you start making lists of 25, 50 and 100, you're bound to stretch you mind to its very limits!
Have you ever heard the scientific fact that "humans only use 10% of their brains"? Whether or not this is true, I don't know. But I do believe each one of us has a stockpile of valuable ideas, experiences, memories and brain sparks that need to be leveraged for the purposes of learning. People have so much information in their minds that making lists can capture these valuable thoughts in a visible way.
This is great tactic to help you understand your own personal brand. My mentor, Shep Hyken, author of Moments of Magic and The Loyal Customer once told me to write my own list called "Top Ten Reasons You Should Hire Me." Wow. I'd never really thought of myself in that way. And I admit, it was a difficult task.
"Don't just put 'Because I'm nice,'" Shep told me, "write a word or phrase, and then expand on it in a detailed paragraph."
So... what are the Top Ten Reasons anyone would want to work with YOU?
If you'd like to view my list, go here.
A few weeks ago my friend Ed -- the same friend who challenged me to create that initial list of 101 Goals -- summed up the issue perfectly.
"Lists help you evaluate yourself. They allow you to 'approach' who you are as a person. It's almost like building an INNER front porch... to yourself."
Whoa. Somebody used my own term back to me! That blew my mind. But Ed was right! If a front porch increases approachability, and approachability is a function of knowledge and uncertainty, then creating lists about yourself invites YOU to get to know YOU.
Maybe we need to be more willing to approach ourselves. After all, Socrates once said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Here are a few of my favorite lists, all of which I've completed and update/cross off regularly. I encourage you to take some time in the next few weeks to write a few of them out:
- 100 Things That Make You Happy
- 50 Things You Like About Yourself
- 25 Accomplishments I'm Proud Of
- 101 Goals for 2005
- 25 Best Pieces of Business Advice I've Ever Been Given
- 50 of My Favorite Success Stories to Tell
- A List of Everything You Want to Be
- 15 Things Your Customers Need to Know About You
- 10 Reasons You're An Expert
- 7 Characteristics of Your Ideal Client
Good luck and happy listing!